While short story collections can be a great way to discover new writers, science fiction anthologies sometimes favor writers who are veterans with a novel or three under their belt. But that’s not the case with The New Voices Of Science Fiction (paperback, Kindle), which, as editors Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman explain in the following email interview, is focused on writers whose careers are just getting started…relatively speaking.
To begin, what is The New Voices Of Science Fiction? I know it’s a short story collection, but what is the commonality between these stories?
Jacob: The New Voices Of Science Fiction highlights stories by new writers, writers who have begun publishing in the last 10 years. The least recent stories in the collection were published in 2015. The newest, E. Lily Yu’s “The Doing And Undoing Of Jacob E. Mwangi,” was published earlier this year in Asimov’s SF. We bought Lily’s story before it appeared in print.
Why did you think this would be a good basis for a collection of science fiction short stories, and why did you also think this was something you each wanted to edit?
Jacob: It’s hard not to be interested in the various directions science fiction may be headed, the future of the future. I’ve been reading more and more stories recently by newer writers and this was an opportunity for me to delve deeper.
Hannu: I was also intrigued by the notion of a writer’s voice, what it means to be a new voice, and what new voices have in common. And then of course there were all these sparkling, wonderful stories out there that had that temporal newness but also tonal freshness in common: they deserved a home.
Beyond the theme, what other considerations did you take into account when putting together The New Voices Of Science Fiction? Like, did the stories have to be previously unpublished, of a certain length…?
Jacob: All the stories were previously published. We were looking primarily for great stories by new writers, but we did place a premium on stories that looked at the future in new ways, expressed contemporary concerns.
Jacob, you are the publisher and founder of Tachyon Publications, the company putting out The New Voices Of Science Fiction. When deciding what to include, did Jacob Weisman the editor ever have disagreements with Jacob Weisman the publisher?
Jacob: Not really. But I will say that publisher keeps making my name smaller than those of my more famous co-editors.
So Hannu, what did Jacob bring to the assembling of The New Voices Of Science Fiction that you did not?
Hannu: Jacob has an incredible map of the whole genre in his head and reads more than I thought was humanly possible, so he was perfectly placed to compile the longlist of stories for us to consider.
And Jacob, same question for you about Hannu.
Jacob: My job was to read widely and so that Hannu and I had a wide range of stories to choose from.
Were there any stories where you were both instantly in agreement about them in The New Voices Of Science Fiction?
Jacob: I think we agreed on almost all the stories. I consulted Hannu as I went, so I was able to make some decisions, using my inner Hannu to guide me, before actually showing him all the stories I considered. Also, the stories were really good, which made things easier. When in doubt, I tried to defer to Hannu on the final selections. He’d have to tell you whether I actually managed to do that in a convincing way.
And were there any that you were really, really split over?
Hannu: No real splits. But there were perhaps half a dozen we went back and forth on for a bit.
Jacob: There were some tough choices, and there were definitely a couple of stories that didn’t make the cut that would have, if we’d had more room.
Jacob, you and Peter S. Beagle previously assembled a similar anthology called The New Voices Of Fantasy. How, if at all, was The New Voices Of Science Fiction influenced by your work on Fantasy?
Jacob: The fantasy volume was definitely the impetus for the new book. I had two stories Peter Beagle and I had considered for that volume but that we thought were too sfnal: “Madeleine” by Amal El-Mohtar and “Toppers” by Jason Sanford. In the end, we chose another story by El-Mohtar for the fantasy volume, leaving me free to include “Madeleine” in the new collection. Sanford’s story was undeniably sf, but with some very odd twists. So those were among the first stories I sent to Hannu.
Has there been any talk of doing a second Fantasy?
Jacob: I’d like to put together more New Voices anthologies, but I’m not yet sure how that would look. We might publish another fantasy collection, but more likely I’d move on to other genres or subgenres.
It’s been my experience that short story collections are a great way to discover new writers. In editing The New Voices Of Science Fiction, did either of you become a fan of any of the writers, and then go read more of their stories?
Jacob: Yes, absolutely. Of course, one of my jobs was to make sure that there weren’t better, more appropriate stories by the writers we included. Some of our writers, like Suzanne Palmer or Rich Larson, have written a tremendous amount of short fiction in a very short time. Others, like Amman Sabet or Samantha Mills, are just starting their writing careers.
Hannu: From now on I will read everything from Vina Jie-Min Prasad and Jamie Wahls, for example. But the same goes for all of them.
And Jacob, will any of these writers be doing novels or short story collections of their own for Tachyon any time soon?
Jacob: I hope so. We’re talking already with a couple of the authors about future projects. And we’ve bought several debut novels coming out by other writers. We’ll be announcing those soon.
Finally, if someone enjoys The New Voices Of Science Fiction, what sci-fi short story collection that someone else edited would you suggest they read next?
Hannu: Jacob is better placed to answer this, but I try to read all of the Best American Science Fiction And Fantasy anthologies from John Joseph Adams and co-editors. A slightly older anthology which was a great showcase for new voices of 10 years ago is Shine: An Anthology Of Optimistic SF, edited by Jetse de Vries, which I think still stands as a great collection.
Jacob: There are so many great anthologies. The Sunspot Jungle anthologies, two massive volumes edited by Bill Campbell, are very much on the cutting edge. And I’d recommend the best of the year collections by Neil Clarke, John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton, and Jonathan Strahan. Garner Dozois’ bests have been discontinued but it’s still possible to find volumes from recent years, as well as his Best Of The Best collections. The Sea Is Ours: Tales Of Steampunk Southeast Asia edited by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng is utterly fascinating. As is Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From The Margins Of History edited by Rose Fox and Daniel José Older.